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Dr. Irwin Awarded IU President's Medal for Excellence


March 28, 2012

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Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie presented the President's Medal for Excellence to Glenn Irwin Jr., M.D., chancellor emeritus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and dean emeritus of the IU School of Medicine.

The presentation was made March 28, 2012 in Indianapolis at the ground breaking ceremony for Science and Engineering Laboratory Building. The President's Medal is one of the highest awards the university can bestow.

The President's Medal recognizes, among other criteria, distinction in public service, service to IU and extraordinary merit and achievement in the arts, humanities, sciences, education and industry. The medal itself is a reproduction in silver of the symbolic jewel of office worn by IU's president at ceremonial occasions.

A list of past recipients of the President's Medal is available here. Note: The list does not include emeriti faculty members John Preer and Ting-Kai Li, who received the president's medal in September 2011; Vice President Emeritus Patrick O'Meara, who received the award in November 2011; and January 2012 recipients of the award, Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson and David Baker, distinguished professor of jazz studies.

Dr. Irwin Jr. is frequently described as “High Class, Low Key” as in the headline of an article about him in the March 1986 issue of the Indiana University Alumni Magazine.
While serving as dean in the 1960s, Dr. Irwin led the creation of a statewide medical education program, and while chancellor in the 1970s and 80s, he drove the growth of programs and facilities at IUPUI, leading it to the ranks of the leading public urban campuses, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in sciences and liberals arts as well as business and technology.

Irwin graduated from the School of Medicine in the spring 1944 class, one of the school’s two wartime classes that year, which was the result of the school’s effort to produce more doctors to serve the troops injured in the war. After serving at the Schofield Barracks Hospital in Hawaii, he joined the faculty at the medicine school in 1950 and became dean in March 1965.

As dean, Dr. Irwin began the drive to build Indiana University Hospital in June 1965; it was the first adult hospital built by IU since Coleman Hospital for Women opened in 1927.
Medical education was a key focus for Dr. Irwin and the school during his tenure as dean. In the 1960s IUSM developed the "Indiana Plan" which called for a coordinated statewide system of undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical education.

Conceptualized to create "a medical school without walls, both in space and in time," the system developed under Irwin's direction established seven additional campuses (in addition to Indianapolis and the Bloomington program that started in 1959) where the first two years of medical education were taught in collaboration with basic science faculty at IUB, Notre Dame, Ball State, Indiana State, University of Evansville and Purdue universities. This was the first comprehensive program to use all of the resources for medical education within an entire state, and to develop an integrated system of medical education which served physicians as well as medical students anywhere within that state's borders.

In 2012, the IU School of Medicine continues to build the statewide system by adding the third and fourth years to all its campuses across the state as it expands its student body to address the continued physician shortages in underserved areas and to serve an aging population.

Appointed as chancellor of IUPUI in 1973, Dr. Irwin oversaw the growth of the campus’s academic programs and gave particular attention to its physical development at a time of rapid expansion.

During Dr. Irwin’s chancellorship, in partnership with the city of Indianapolis, IUPUI added a sports complex that included a natatorium, an attached physical education building and a track and field stadium to be ready for the National Sports Festival in 1982 To improve access to Wishard Hospital and the campus, Lockefield Gardens was partially razed and new apartments were added for university students and residents.

During this time, the campus underwent a transformation that brought continued dramatic growth in subsequent decades. Work progressed to enhance and expand Riley Hospital for Children (Phase III, 1986) and IU Hospital (Phase II, 1975), and both Regenstrief Institute and the Ronald McDonald House opened, adding both research space and a home away from home for families with children being cared for at Riley Hospital.

Under his leadership, IUPUI’s visibility and prestige as an academic institution increased dramatically. Enrollment grew from fewer than 17,000 students to more than 23,000; full-time faculty increased from approximately 800 to more than 1,300; and the operating budget of the campus increased from $97 million to $409 million. Thanks to Dr. Irwin’s vision and effort, major strides were made so that today IUPUI is ranked 3rd by U.S. News and World Report in "Up-and-Coming National Universities."

After Dr. Irwin retired from the chancellor’s post in 1986, he continued to serve the community as a member of the boards of the Eiteljorg Museum of Western Art and the American Indian, the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, and the Riley Children’s Foundation Board of Governors.